Blues Bytes


August 2010

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Paul Thorn
Pimps & Preachers
Perpetual Obscurity Records

Paul Thorn

Pimps & Preachers is Paul Thorn’s ninth album, released on his own label Perpetual Obscurity Records. Thorn, previously a skydiver and prize fighter originally from Tupelo, Mississippi, takes the theme of this album from his childhood – his father was a Pentecostal Minister while his father’s brother was a pimp who suddenly showed up when Thorn was 12 years old.

Whilst this CD isn’t strictly 100% blues, there’s enough blues in it to qualify it here. It has influences as diverse as Robert Johnson and Tom Waits, and lots in between. The tracks that aren’t exactly blues do have blues influences, amongst those of country rock, etc., and the fact that it isn’t a pure blues album shouldn’t put anyone off of listening to it, because it’s full of good music. All 13 tracks are written, or co-written, by Paul Thorn and he comes across as a good songwriter as well as an accomplished musician.

The CD opens with “You’re Not The Only One,” a country rock number a bit like some of the early Eagles songs, and that’s definitely not a criticism. This leads into the title track of the album, “Pimps & Preachers,” and the first of the bluesy tracks – a good one!

Track three has a bit of a country influence – “Tequila Is Good For the Heart,” and that’s followed by a nice ballad, “Love Scar,” which was influenced by a tattoo that Thorn saw on a woman’s shoulder in London.

“Weeds In My Roses” puts me in mind of some of the better Lenny Kravitz songs, and it’s a very good blues-rock number which leads into the Bruce Springsteen style “Better Days Ahead” – some advice for anyone suffering from the bad times of the moment.

There’s a real mix of songs from then on, from the tear jerker “Ray Ann’s Shoes” through the country blues rock “You Might Be Wrong,” the soulful ballad “I Hope I’m Doin’ This Right” to the boogie country blues “I Don’t Like Half The Folks I Love,” and the final track, “That’s Life,” an intense, sad ballad about life and love.

From my point of view, this is the best thing that Paul Thorn has produced so far.

--- Terry Clear

Paul Thorn’s life reads like one of the characters in a William Faulkner story. He was raised in Tupelo, MS by his father, a Pentecostal minister. Over time, he has worked in a furniture factory, jumped out of airplanes, and even had a boxing career (10 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw), once fighting the legendary Roberto Duran on national TV. He’s also recorded for a major label and has opened for acts like Bonnie Raitt (who calls him one of her favorite artists), Sting, Mark Knopfler, and John Prine.

At the age of 12, Thorn’s uncle showed up in Tupelo from California. Back in the day, he had been a pimp, and so Thorn was now exposed to the secular side of life along with the religious aspects of life taught to him by his father. This relationship is the key to the message of Thorn’s latest CD, Pimps and Preachers (Perpetual Obscurity Records), where the sacred is mixed with the profane, because you can’t tell what one is without knowing about the other, as perfectly expressed by Thorn’s “I Hope I’m Doing This Right.”

Thorn’s songwriting is incredible. Each song on Pimps and Preachers has its own story, sometimes humorous and poignant in the same song (“Tequila Is Good For The Heart” and “I Don’t Like Half The People I Love” are shining examples). The characters in his song, from the woman with the tattoo in “Love Scar” to the central characters in “Ray Ann’s Shoes” and “Nona Lisa,” all seem to live and breathe.

Best of all is when Thorn reaches from within his own personal story, like on the title track, which is a capsule summary of his upbringing and how he was taught to “get out there in the game. Don’t sit up in the bleachers,” and the mesmerizing “That’s Life,” with lyrics taken entirely from words spoken to Thorn by his mother.

What’s frustrating about today’s music scene is the obsession with categorization….is this guy country or blues….do I put this disc in the Americana section or in the rock section? That almost guarantees that artists like Paul Thorn will not reach the audiences that they deserve because of the tendency to pigeonhole artists in one genre or another. Thorn’s music takes in the blues, alternative country, folk, and roots rock, but often music lovers who don’t ordinarily follow those genres miss out on wonderful music like this, and that’s a shame. Don’t let this one pass you by.

--- Graham Clarke


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